Tuesday, April 19, 2011


As much homage to the joie de vivre of the late Eric Rohmer as to the Jacques Demy/Michel Legrand classic Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Francois Ozon's charming and quite radical and poetic film, Potiche, stars the iconic Catherine Deneuve, and Gerard Depardieu, carrying well his weight and his brawler's face.

It used to be that Hollywood made sophisticated, intelligent, even intellectual and subversive rom-com, but that was long ago in the days of Tracy/Hepburn, Frank Capra, Preston Sturges. With the death of Larry Gelbart, and except for Woody Allen's brilliant edginess, American film comedy now is geared to what is lower than the lowest common denominator.

Although Casablanca among other American movies remains my sentimental favorite, the most outstanding films are more often than not, French. From Les Enfants Du Paradis, still possibly the greatest film ever made, through Cocteau's Orphee, to J.P. Melville's noir, to early Godard and the nouvelle vague, revolutionizing both cinematic technique and substance, form and content, it is clear that the finest achievments in French cinema are unsurpassed, matched only by the best of Welles, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa.

Following the second generation of nouvelle vague directors: Jean-Jacques Beneix (director of David Goodis' The Moon In The Gutter) and Luc Besson, his work spiralling downward after Subway, and Nikita, and Leon: The Professional (perhaps because that film, Natalie Portman's first, was panned, unfairly, by just about every American film critic as paedophilia), Ozon's films might emerge as a third stage of French film-making development after Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, and their colleagues, although Potiche is simply a lovely light-hearted (yet simultaneously serious) divertissement. And Catherine Deneuve luminous as always.